Readings for Session on Strategy and Tactics, May 2023

Readings for Session on Strategy and Tactics, May 2023

Readings for Session on Strategy and Tactics, May 2023


Excerpts fromPhilosophy and Class Struggle” by Dialego, a publication from the South African Communist Party, 1976. (Just mentally substitute the word “strategy” for every occurrence of “philosophy” or “theory”)


Page 4: Those who imagine that all revolutionaries need to do is act, forget that action on its own is not enough. (Strictly speaking, it is not even possible.) No matter how passionately we hate oppression and wish to see things change, there is only one force capable of of eliminating colonialism, capitalism and reaction, and that is the oppressed and exploited masses led by an organization of revolutionaries. . .


Yet once we talk about a movement, a party and a program we are not simply talking about action, we are talking about action which has been thought out, for the only way in which anyone can plan activity and produce a program is through revolutionary thinking—the development of revolutionary theory which, if it is properly worked out, does not hold back our practical activity but rather serves as a compass which enables us to move in the direction we want to go. This is why Lenin correctly argued in his classic work, What Is To Be Done, that:


“the role of vanguard fighter can be fulfilled only by a party that is guided by the most advanced theory.”


For the more difficult and dangerous the tasks facing revolutionaries, the more developed and carefully works out their theoretical perspectives need to be.


Page 8: Marxist philosophy must be understood as a guide to action and not as some kind of self-contained system of ideas which can be used as a substitute for the actual task of carefully studying the real world. The general principles of dialectical materialism act as a framework to assist us in our search for the laws of development at work in a particular situation so that we become more sharply in tune with the precise features of objective reality and understand how they fluidly interrelate as a process of change.


Lenin put the question well when he said that:


“it is not enough to be a revolutionary and an adherent of socialism or a Communist in general. You must be able at each particular moment to find the particular link in the chain which you must grasp with all  your might in order to hold the whole chain and to prepare firmly for the transition to the next link . . .”


For this is the essence of the dialectical materialist approach: to discover both the particular links in the revolutionary chain and to work out how these links fit together as a whole . . .


Excerpts from “Can Capitalism Last by Daniel Rubin, International Publishers 2009  (substitute “strategy” for every occurrence of “methodology”)


Page 155: All activity for social progress and socialism, whether political, organizational or ideological, requires a methodology to succeed. Methodology .embraces all the laws, theories, and principles of social development, the physical and natural sciences and of thought that make possible assessing change and the existing situation and determining how to respond . . .


Studying whether the anti-ultra-right strategic stage of struggle has been completed and the anti-monopoly strategic stage has been reached requires methodology. Figuring out what are the best, most appropriate tactics to complete the anti-ultra-right stage requires methodology. Assessing the stage that has been reached in a shop or neighborhood struggle and deciding on the central demand and the best forms of organization and struggle to fight for it requires methodology. If the task is how to build a union, a YCL chapter, a Communist Party club, methodology is needed. To decide how to go from where we are all the way to socialism requires methodology.


Page 157: To conclude what attitude to take on a particular issue, what is in the interests of the working class, and what tactics to pursue in achieving those interests, everything must be examined not in isolation but in all of its interconnections. What is the overall balance of forces that influences the particular question?


Page 158: Every issue and struggle has a history. The past is part of that. So are the present and the possibilities for the future. Marxists examine questions in their development, their process of change.


Excerpts from “The Communist Party and the Auto Workers Union” by Roger Keeran.


Page 117-118: Communist influence . . . stemmed from factors other than their numerical strength. (Some) circumstances, in particular, enabled a small number of Communists to exercise a disproportionately large influence: the policy of concentration, the ability to draw on nonauto workers for support, the conformance of many Communist ideas to the objective needs of unionization . . .


[That Communist ideas corresponded with the objective needs of auto workers and of the union is a reflection of our approach to strategy. Our Marxist approach: base our strategy on the objective realities (materialism), and on a view of what links in the chain to pull to create change (dialectics). Our strategy focused on building a working class base in specific groups of workers for both unionization and socialism (industrial concentration). Our form of organization (a party of activists from many movements) led to the ability of our comrades to pull on support for union struggles from other elements of the broader progressive coalitions we participated in.]


Basic Party Strategy by Marc Brodine (adapted from a contribution to the pre-convention discussion for our 2014 National Convention)


Strategy is based on an in-depth assessment of the objective facts of U.S. political life. It enables us to chart a path from where we are currently to our ultimate goals, or at least to the next few steps in the process.


Strategy is not based on the way we wish things would be. It is not based on how we hope things will be. Strategy is a sober look at the actual current balance of forces. It is an analysis of the potential ways to change that balance of forces in a positive direction.


The power of the extreme right is the main factor limiting progress in moving U.S. politics to addressing the needs of the working class and other sectors of the populace. The power of the extreme right distorts and perverts our media and our electoral and governance systems. It must be defeated to make fundamental progress towards solving the great challenges which face our class, country, and world. The dysfunction inflicted by right-wing politicians on the body politic prevents finding real solutions to or even making necessary progress on income inequality, climate change, women’s health care and rights, tax reform, and LGBTQ rights. It stands in the way of forcing the ultra-rich to pay a greater share of the tax burden, of immigration reform, of expanding the electorate, and is an obstacle on many other issues.


The right-wing media machine skews our national dialogue away from real issues. It limits the ability of the country to provide even basic services such as adequate food stamps, unemployment insurance, access to women’s health care, and well-funded schools for all.


We are living with the consequences of many decades of right-wing control of too much of our electoral, administrative, and judicial systems. Biden’s program and his actions as President do not offer a major break with corporate power, but offer the potential of beginning of some restraint on sections of the capitalist class and placing some limits on their unrestrained avarice. Biden’s electoral victory was a blow to the growing fascist movement, though not a decisive blow—the fascist danger is still a great threat.


We have no illusions that mainstream Democratic politicians will create fundamental change. We cannot rest our hopes on any one politician. But the power of the movement for change does hold that potential.


The extreme right has escalated efforts to prevent even modest mainstream efforts to address real human needs. There are divisions on the right between MAGA activists and paramilitary groups, well-funded political operations like those of the Koch brothers, other Republican political operatives who are most focused on actually winning elections, and a few conservatives who just seek conservative but realistic governance. A few Republicans and former Republicans, disgusted with Trump, have made a stand over some issues of democracy, understanding that when the Trump minions destroy faith in the system, that portends chaos and is a threat to long-term profits, and a threat to the legitimacy and stability of the system.


Creating a fundamental turn in U.S. politics requires breaking this right wing obstructionism. It requires placing limits on the power of money in our electoral system. It requires reaching many of those who have been subjected to the production of fear and confusion in the service of the corporations and the ultra-right. Without a decisive break, our politics will remain mired in dysfunction, and the danger of fascism, always present on the right, will continue to grow.


To make this turn requires building the broadest possible unity. That unity will be based on the power and organization of the working class, allied with many other forces and movements for change. Youth, women, LGBTQ, and the nationally oppressed all share the need for this unity to advance the fight for their needs. The civil rights movement, women’s rights movement, youth and student movement, peace movement, environmental movement, immigrant rights movement, LGBTQ movement, seniors movement, and others all need this unity. All of the movements need this alliance with the working class and the unions in order to realize their objectives.


Our strategy is to work to build this necessary unity. Our strategy is to place ourselves in alliance with all these progressive forces, to be the best fighters for the needs of the people. This approach concentrates on building unity of the core forces of the movements for progress (workers, women, youth, the nationally and racially oppressed) by fighting divisions promoted by our enemies: racism first of all, sexism, homophobia, anti-communism, transphobia, militarism and xenophobia and other efforts to divide natural allies.


In the longer term, we need a third, mass people’s party based on the working class, in order to seriously address our common challenges. But we can’t wish it into existence. We can’t build it separate from the forces that will enable it to have an impact. It would be counterproductive to divide ourselves from the tens of millions who are ready to work for a better life but either do not yet see the need for fundamental change or do not see the possibility of that change. To separate ourselves from these tens of millions of Americans would work against the essential unity of all progressive forces.


To be truly revolutionary does not mean to sound the most radical, to make the most advanced demands, nor to rant the loudest against the system. It means to recognize the actually existing balance of forces and take realistic steps to shift that balance in a progressive direction. There is no contradiction between working for reforms and working for revolution—the two are integrally connected. Neither is as effective unless linked to the other. Power grows, not out of the barrel of a gun, but from the millions of people engaged in struggle. Uniting with those millions must be our first and lasting primary objective. Revolution is a fundamentally democratic act, and relies on the active participation of millions. Without that participation, revolutionary rhetoric is hollow and self-defeating, no matter how radical it sounds.


Our strategy starts from where we actually are, where the people’s movements are, how powerful and entrenched their enemies are, what issues are foremost in the minds of millions, and what the next steps are on the road to socialism. Our outlook points to the continuing danger of fascism, to the need to reverse the steps taken during the Trump administration to lay the groundwork for full-blown fascism, of the need to protect and extend even the limited aspects of U.S. democracy and democratic elections which provide room for mass struggle.


There are not hard and fast borders between stages of struggle. We foresee in the future building an anti-monopoly coalition to tackle the power of the monopolies and transnational corporations. While we think that is not the most pressing issue currently, this does not mean we mute our criticisms of corporate power now, or that we postpone all work against corporations for some later stage. It does mean that we first of all work to build the broadest people’s unity that is possible at the current moment. We understand that unity against the extreme right can unite many, including even some very large capitalists, along with millions who may be confused about capitalism as the source of the problems we face, but who are ready to work on finding real solutions to those problems.


The issues that the people’s movements must address range from defensive struggles against the efforts of the extreme right to gut union rights to the looming environmental crises that will increasingly demand emergency attention. They range from immigrant rights to decent schools, from basic issues of democracy and voting rights to issues of effective governance. We can’t decide in advance what those crucial issues are; the actual struggles of the people for their own needs are what determine the immediate political agenda and how it changes over time. Our strategy carries us through the ebbs and flows of struggle with a long-range vision of an economic system based on fairness, equality, justice, and real solutions to fundamental problems.


We can’t preach our way to socialism. Talking about our ideas for a socialist USA is part of our job, but not by itself, not disconnected from current struggles. People learn most from their own struggles and their own direct experiences. Working with many kinds of people in many kinds of struggles is the key to our Party winning one of the leading roles in those struggles. It is the key to millions concluding that we are correct to argue for a fundamental transformation of our economic system. They don’t conclude that just because we tell them, they conclude that because of their own lived experience of fighting for their rights, for their needs, and for a decent future for their children and grandchildren.


Our strategy helps us represent the future in the struggles of today. It helps to build long-term unity across issues, movements, and organizations. It helps us focus on the key core forces—first of all workers and their organizations—and to point a clear direction to victory. Our program, “The Road to Socialism USA,” updated at our 2019 Convention, discusses our strategy in more detail.


Though many aspects of life and struggle change, our basic outlook for struggle, for progress, and for socialism remains at the center of our work.